Meet our Vessel Staff

Pacific Whale Foundation is proud to introduce you to our team of certified Marine Naturalists, Biologists, U.S. Coast Guard certified Captains and Pursers. Our Experts will ensure that when you book an Eco-Adventure cruise with us, you will have a safe, fun and educational experience while exploring Maui's acclaimed Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Our vessel staff experts


Blake Moore
Vessel Staff Director

Blake MooreHometown: Lawrenceburg, TN
Education: Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, with emphasis in Biology from Middle Tennessee State University. Commercial Diver from Divers Academy of the Eastern Seaboard
Experience: Commercial and research diving experience along the U.S. East Coast and Southeastern U.S.; Pacific Whale Foundation educator and Staff/Program Director for 10 years. HIHWNMS Large Whale Entanglement Responder, Haleakala National Park Volunteer Trainer and Guide 

Morgan M. Wittmer
Staff Manager and Marine Naturalist

Morgan M. SmithHometown: Boulder, CO
Education: Bachelors in Biology University of Colorado, Masters in Marine Biology Florida Atlantic University, Certified Interpretive Guide through NAI
Experience: Field work on bugs and birds in Colorado and Costa Rica, Field Technician for the Hawksbill Turtle Monitoring Program, Volcanoes National Park, Science Teacher in the Florida Keys, Teaching Assistant Florida Atlantic University, Turtle Tech, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, FL, Primate Zoo Keeper at the palm Beach Zoo, FL

Marine Naturalists ~ Ma'alaea Harbor

Josh Wittmer
Marine Naturalist

Josh WittmerHometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Education: Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, with emphasis in Marine Scence from Allegheny College with Off Campus Study at the Duke University Marine Lab and the Bermuda BIOStation
Experience: State of Hawaii DLNR DAR Research Diver, PADI Divemaster, Maui Ocean Center Curatorial Diver, Science Instructor at Seacamp/NHMI in the Florida Keys, REEF Intern, Americorps Watershed

Mike Donohoe
Marine Naturalist

Mike DonohoeHometown: Columbus, OH
Education: B.A. Zoology - Miami University
Experience: Character Ambassador Columbus Zoo, Swim Coach, Turtle Conservation in DC, Turtle Hospital in South GA, SeaCamp in Florida Keys

Jackson Dowd
Marine Naturalist

Jackson DowdHometown: Raleigh, NC
Education: B.A. Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education from Brevard College
Experience: Instructor at Catalina Island Marine Institute and CIMI tallship Expeditions. Field Instructor at Second Nature Blue Ridge. Field Guide for Coastal Kayak Eco-touring Co.

Alyssa Moser
Marine Naturalist

Alyssa MoserHometown: Tucson, AZ
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, emphasis on Environmental Science, Spanish and Education from the University of Arizona
Experience: Instructor/ Deckhand/ Assistant Program Director for CIMI Tall Ship Expeditions aboard the Tole Mour. Intern with the University of Arizona for Community Gardens with the Tucson Unified School District.

Katelyn Herman
Marine Naturalist

Katelyn HermanHometown: Newnan, GA
Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology with an emphasis in Marine Science from the University of Georgia
Experience: Intern with the Georgia Dolphin Ecology Program, Research Assistant at UGA, Lead Naturalist at Alaska Travel Adventures

Nate Formel
Marine Naturalist

Nate FormelHometown: Guaynabo, PR
Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology w/ a Concentration in Marine Biology from Northeastern University, Master of Science in Marine Affairs and Policy from University of Miami
Experience: East-West/Three Seas Marine Biology Program at Northeastern University, Professional Intern at Disney World's Living Seas Aquarium, NAUI Dive Instructor, Marine Science Instructor at the Catalina Island Marine Institute, Everglades Freshwater Research Tech with Florida International University, Sail and Marine Science Instructor w/ Sail Caribbean, Coral research assistant at the Rosenstiel School, Coral survey diver with the Living Oceans Foundation

Callen Miracle
Marine Naturalist

Callen MiracleHometown: Youngstown, OH
Education: B.A. Biology and Environmental Studies, Oberlin College
Experience: Marine Science Instructor/Aquarist at Catalina Island Marine Institute, CA, Naturalist/Educator at Rutledge Marine Laboratory, NH, Research Associate in Green Reef, Belize

Brian Jacques
Marine Naturalist

Brian JacquesHometown: San Luis Obispo, CA
Education: BS Biology, Sonoma State University, CA
Experience: Research Assistant at SSU Ecology, Naturalist at Safari West, African Wildlife Preserve in Northern California. Research Intern at Pacific Whale Foundation.

Phoebe Wallace
Marine Naturalist

Phoebe WallaceHometown: Boise, Idaho
Education: B.S in Biology with an Emphasis in Ecology, Boise State University
Experience: Research assistant at Refuge Romelia on the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica primarily collecting data for nesting Olive Ridley sea turtles and their hatchlings as well as reforestation, mammal monitoring, volunteer management and environmental education.

Courtney Cox
Marine Naturalist

Courtney CoxHometown: Eagan, MN
Education: B.S. In Marine Science (Biology) with a minor in Psychology from Eckerd College
Experience: Eckerd College Dolphin Project Lead Researcher and Boat Operator, Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization Research Assistant, Eckerd College Recreational Programs: Wakeboarding Driver and Supervisor, NOAA Dolphin SMART Evaluator, Mote Marine Lab Dolphin and Whale Hospital, Senior Thesis on the Behavioral Ecology of Calf and Juvenile Bottlenose Dolphins within Boca Ciega Bay, FL

Laura Lundby
Marine Naturalist

Laura LundbyHometown: San Diego, CA
Education: B.S. Wildlife Management, Humboldt State University
Experience:Senior Mammal Keeper San Diego Wild Animal Park, Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand, wildlife/fisheries biologist Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks, fisheries/range biologist, Forest Service, Sign Illustrator at San Diego Zoo.

Torsten Durkan
Marine Naturalist

Torsten DurkanHometown: Haiku, HI
Education: Graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a BA Psychology and Biology

Julianna "Jules" Trowbridge
Marine Naturalist

Jules TrowbridgeHometown: Novato, Ca
Education: BS Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, Wildlands Studies: The Argentina Project, Preserving Wildlife and Ecosystems
Experience: Outreach and Education Coordinator at Coastal Fund: interacted with and educated students and community members, informing them about local environmental issues and projects through interactive events like beach clean-ups, kayaking and bike trips, and tide pooling. Head Counselor at Canyon Creek Summer Camp: working with children and adults of all ages and backgrounds and giving them an unforgettable experience in the wilderness. CO-Executive Director of the Plastic Pollution Coalition at UCSB: working to eliminate single use plastic on the UCSB campus while educating students and community members about the dangers of plastic. Instructor for Sprout Up: offering environmental education for the next generation.

Kate Czechowski
Marine Naturalist

Kate CzechwaskiHometown: Spokane, WA
Education: Vassar College, BA Biology
Experience: Eco-tour guide for Critter Cruise Nantucket, Sea Turtle Care and Research Intern at Mote Marine Lab, Aquarist at Maria Mitchell Aquarium. Studied marine ecology abroad at the School for Field Studies in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Tizoc Garcia
Marine Naturalist

Tizoc GarciaHometown: Harlingen, TX
Education: BA Biology Texas A&M University; MS Biology University of Texas Pan American
Experience: High school science teacher and adjunct professor in the state of Texas for 16 years. Conducted coral reef fish studies at the Flower Gardens Bank Marine Sanctuary with the Gulf of Mexico Foundation. Worked one year at the New England Aquarium Animal Care and Quarantine Center in Quincy, MA as an aquarist intern. Spent five months as a research intern for the Pacific Whale Foundation researching humpback whales in Australia and Maui.

Lauren Fritz
Marine Naturalist

Lauren FritzHometown: Coeur d'Alene, ID
Education: B.S. in Chemical Engineering, with an emphasis on Biomolecular Engineering, from the University of Notre Dame
Experience: Interned with the research and tourism teams at Marine Dynamics, a cage-diving company that supports great white shark research and conservation in Gansbaai, South Africa; filmed, edited, and produced a short documentary on the effects of cage-diving on great white shark conservation with the support of Notre Dame's College of Science and Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts; assisted in shark egg data collection and beach clean-up along the coast of the Western Cape of South Africa; conducted research at the University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute, studying the spatial ecology of lobsters in the waters off of Perth, Australia; worked as a member of GreeND and Students for Environmental Action while attending Notre Dame; spent four months as a homeschool teacher at a home for children in Komga, South Africa following graduation, helping to lead various programs for children and inspire them to be environmental advocates.

Katie Keast
Marine Naturalist

Katie KeastHometown: Larned, KS
Education:  BS of science from Belmont University in Nashville, TN. I majored in Biology with an emphasis in Marine Biology, and a minor in Environmental Science. I did my marine science coursework in the summers at the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.
Experience: Studied Tropical Biology and Conservation in Belize, volunteered for Red Snapper fisheries project and Spotted Seatrout tag and release stock enhancement program at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, served as president of the Environmental and Conservation Organization at Belmont University.

Emily Johnson
Marine Naturalist

Emily JohnsonHometown: St. Paul, MN
Education: Bachelor of Science in Marine Science (Biology) with a minor in Environmental Science from Eckerd College
Experience: Emphasized hotel sustainability initiatives at the Loews Don CeSar Hotel as a Marine Science Education Coordinator and Program Developer and through an internal promotion to Property Supervisor, Research Assistant with the Mangrove Wetland Restoration/Creation Project at Eckerd College's Galbraith Marine Science Center, Educator and Exhibit Guide at Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, Research Assistant at the Bimini Biological Field Station, Marine Science Study Abroad Participant at James Cook University.

Jill Wirt
Marine Naturalist

Jill WirtHometown: Rocklin, CA
Education: Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from San Diego State University
Experience: Research/Conservation Intern for Pacific Whale Foundation creating odontocete photo-identification dorsal fin database and contributing to marine debris project; Intern for Global Disposal studying universal waste and increasing proper disposal rate methods to reduce input to the landfill.

Kendra Lane
Marine Naturalist

Kendra LaneHometown: Poolesville, MD
Education: Bachelor of Science in Psychology and in Biology with a concentration in Neuroscience and Physiology
Experience: Research internship in Maui with the Ocean Mammal Institute studying humpback whale behaviors; research with the Pacific Whale Foundation; worked on a nature preservation in Limpopo, South Africa collecting data on wildlife behaviors and patterns of zebras, leopards, monkeys, and other wild animals. Worked in the University of Maryland's Child Development Lab researching autism. Volunteered at a therapeutic riding center for children with disabilities. volunteered at the National Children's Hospital in the emergency room and the Child Life department.

Rachel Wortman
Marine Naturalist

Rachel WortmanHometown: Prineville, OR
Education: BS in Forensic Science, a little training in physical therapy but back to school for occupational therapy.
Experience: Worked in Alaska as a naturalist and in New Zealand for a wild dolphin boat tour operator. Volunteered in clinics and hospitals.

Alex Sasso
Marine Naturalist

Alex SassoHometown: Holbrook, NY
Education: Eckerd College B.S. Marine Science with a concentration in biology
Experience:  Stranding Technician with the Riverhead Foundation (NY State's only Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Network), Educator at the Long Island Aquarium, Cetacean Photo ID intern with the Namibian Dolphin Project, Volunteer with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Marine Mammal Pathobiology Laboratory.

Marielle Decker
Marine Naturalist

Marielle DeckerHometown:  San Diego, CA
Education: M.S. Resource Management and Conservation from Antioch University, New England; B.S. Environmental Science with an emphasis on natural sciences from the University of California, Riverside.
Experience: Chemistry and Environmental Science Teacher at The Athenian School; Walking Tour Guide at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park; Naturalist for Naturalists at Large; Field Guide/Lecturer at Forfar Field Station on Andros Island in the Bahamas.

Brigid Magee
Marine Naturalist

Brigid MageeHometown: Huntington Beach, CA
Education: BA in Biological Anthropology from University of Colorado Boulder
Experience: Sailing, communications director at a real estate office, studied primate conservation, certified & insured yoga instructor.

Marine Naturalists ~ Lahaina Harbor

Chris Cilfone
Marine Naturalist

Chris CilfoneHometown: Torrington, CT
Education: Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology and Film Theory from The University of Rhode Island, The University of Alaska Southeast and The University of Alabama (ROLL TIDE)
Experience: Coast guard sponsored marine mammal surveys, video editor for Discovering Alabama, data analysis of sand tiger sharks along the eastern seaboard, science instructor/staff photographer at Seacamp/NHMI.

Heather Spillane
Marine Naturalist

Heather SpillaneHometown: Canton, MI
Education: Bachelors of Science in Sociology from The University of Michigan, Masters of Science in Environmental Management from The University of Queensland Honors research project at James Cook University.
Experience: Shedd Aquarium, research assistant at the University of Queensland, coral reef surveys for Wild Mob

Jackie Ellis
Marine Naturalist

Jackie EllisHometown: Columbus, GA
Education: Bachelors of Science in Biology from Columbus State University
Experience: Great white shark research in South Africa with the Oceans Research Team, research intern at Pacific Whale Foundation

Jackson Kowalski
Marine Naturalist

Jackson KowalskiHometown: Keizer, OR
Education: Bachelors of Science in General Biology from The University of Puget Sound
Experience: Shark keeper and giant pacific octopus wrangler at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Mark Danielson
Marine Naturalist

Profile photo coming soonHometown: Bryn Mawr, PA
Education: Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology from Rollins College

Mike Collins
Marine Naturalist

Mike CollinsHometown: Ewing, NJ
Education: Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology and Creative Writing from Eckerd College
Experience: Research Assistant Sakaerat Research Station Thailand worked with tree frogs, Greenforce South African Great White Shark Volunteer, Bimini Shark Research Station, U.S and British Virgin Island Ecology.

Chris Ferrante
Marine Naturalist

Chris FerranteHometown: Rockport, MA
Education: BS Environmental Science & Marine Biology from the University of New England
Experience: Visitor Educator at the New England Aquarium, Naturalist/Deckhand with Cape Ann Whale Watch

Brittany Guenther
Marine Naturalist

Brittany GuentherHometown: Charleston, SC
Education: BS Marine Biology/BS Psychology from College of Charleston
Experience: Working with marine mammals, reef fish, and marine birds; research experience with marine mammals and sharks; volunteer diver at South Carolina Aquarium; taught environment education and horseback riding at a summer camp.

Gillian McPherson
Marine Naturalist

Gillian McPhersonHometown: Richmond, BC, Canada
Education: Bachelor of Science from Biola University in La Mirada, CA
Experience: Spiny Dogfish Research at Bamfield Marine Science Centre and Volunteer at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur

Charlotte Mason
Marine Naturalist

Charlotte MasonHometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
Education: B.S. Environmental science concentration in ecology from Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Experience: Environmental education specialist at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah and Outdoor education instructor at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado

Keri Smith
Marine Naturalist

Keri SmithHometown: Savannah, GA
Education:  Bachelors of Science in Biology from Hope College
Experience: Marine Science Educator at Tybee Marine Science Center,Research Assistant with Allied Whale, Fisheries and marine mammal, observer in Alaska, Instructor on the tall ship Hawaiian Chieftain

Lana Bremer
Marine Naturalist

Lana BremerHometown: Burnsville, MN
Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology from St. Cloud State University
Experience: Fisheries observer in the Bering Sea for the last two years and working as an assistant aquarist in WA prior to that.

Leslie Mettlach
Marine Naturalist

Leslie MettlachHometown: McAllen, TX
Education: Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University at Galveston, Certified Teacher: Science 4-8 and Generalist EC-4
Experience: Elementary Science teacher for 5 years. Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Volunteer at the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Animal Care and Training Assistant at the Georgia Aquarium - worked with Asian Small Clawed Otters, Belugas, Harbor Seals, and African Penguins. Research Intern at the Pacific Whale Foundation analyzing data from humpback whale and odontocete studies in Hawaii.

Vanessa Hernandez
Marine Naturalist

Vanessa HernandezHometown: Los Angeles, CA
Education: UCSD B.S. Ecology and Evolution
Experience: Marine science educator in Santa Monica CA, San Diego CA, and the Florida Keys. Most recently worked as naturalist in southeast Alaska with humpback whales and orcas. Research assistant for humpback whale mom and calf behavior project in Maui during winter season.


Brian Barnes

Brian BarnesHometown: Markle, Pennsylvania
Education: B.A. Environmental Studies, Biology
Experience: Teaching marine science on sailing ships in the Pacific, Atlantic and Caribbean. Green sea turtle research in the Bahamas. Dive Master and Electrician.

Curtis Snyder

Curtis SnyderHometown: Wilmington, NC
Education: B.A. Philosophy and Religion with Emphasis in Religion
Experience: Coxswain - U.S. Coast Guard, Mate and Rescue Diver for Carolina Beach Divers Inc., Ocean Lifeguard, Surf Instructor/ Pacific Surf School San Diego Ca., Surf Guide/ Morro Negrito Panama

Joe Yurkanin

Joe YurkaninHometown: Waikapu, HI
Experience: Master Captain of PWF's Ocean Intrigue

Doug Hunt

Doug HuntHometown: Missouri
Experience: Former professional windsurfer, hailed as the first person to perform a backflip while windsurfing. Currently a high school football referee, father and Master Captain of PWF's Ocean Voyager

Ben Eisenstein

Ben EisensteinHometown: Wilmington, NC
Education: BS of Ecology and Environmental Biology at Appalachian
Experience: Captain in British Virgin Islands, deck hand, dive master, marine biology instructor, chief medical officer on SSV Tole Mour, marine science instructor at the Catalina Island Marine Institute, marine science instructor at the Newfound Harbor Marine Institute.

John Patti

John PattiHometown: Kula, HI
Education: Pacific Maritime Academy
Experience: Passenger vessel operations; Honolulu, San Francisco, Maui

Jake Tiller

Captain Jake TillerHometown: Hilton Head Island, SC
Education: Georgia Southern University, Recreation Commercial Resort, health and professional study's, Minor in Business
Experience: Ocean Rescue for 7 years, 15 years of commercial boat experience, over 20,000 nautical miles of offshore sailing experience

Pursers ~ Ma'alaea Harbor

Jonathan Bader
Purser Lead

Jonathan BaderHometown: Acworth, GA
Experience: Landscaping, maintenance for apartment complexes, snorkel boater

Tristen See

Tristen SeeHometown: Clinton, MO
Education: BS Biomedical Science, UCMO. MA Science Education, UCMO
Experience: Truck driver for ice company, shaved ice stand owner, high school science teacher Warsaw H.S., Warsaw, MO. Earned Unified Science Certificate, PLATO Coordinator, Common Core and Data Team

Ginny Talbot

Ginny TalbotHometown: Farmington Hills, MI
Education: B.A. Linguistics, University of Michigan
Experience: Organic farming in Hawaii and Europe, camp counseling, lots of tutoring

Amanda Padilla

Amanda PadillaHometown: Holbrook, Arizona
Education: Studied Biblical Theology, Calvary Chapel Bible College, Kihei HI.
Experience: Currently enrolled at University of Hawaii Maui Campus, Marine Option Program, fishing around Maui Nui and Southeast Alaska, Kihei Canoe Club member, Assisted aboard NOAA Entanglement Vessel in observing and recording whale song and competitive groups around West Maui, Whale Trust volunteer, Pacific Whale Research volunteer, Hawaii Wildlife Fund’s Hawksbill Recovery Project: Nesting Turtle Patrols and PADI SCUBA certified

Anya Vierra

Anya VierraHometown: Merced, California
Education: Human biology major at University of California, Santa Cruz
Experience: Instructor for the non-profit Sprout Up teaching first and second graders about living a sustainable lifestyle. Global Medical Brigades Volunteer, traveled to Honduras and helped set up clinics and provide medical care for rural villages with no access to hospitals.

Jay Demeranville

Jay DemeranvilleHometown: info coming soon
Education: info coming soon
Experience: info coming soon

Drew Schmidt

Drew Schmidt

Hometown: Denver, CO
Education: Currently working on a BS in Psychology
Experience: Food service and customer care at a fine dining restaurant in Denver

Pursers ~ Lahaina Harbor

Paul Camit
Dinner Manager, Purser

Paul CamitHometown: Littleton, CO
Education: Bachelors of Science in Sports and Exercise Science from Brigham Young University in Hawaii
Experience: Humanitarian work for two years in South Georgia

Sierra Frye-Keele

Sierra Frye-KeeleEducation: Lane Community College
Experience: Worked on cruise ships sailing around the Hawaiian islands for two years, delivered a ship from Hawaii to the Bahamas through the Panama Canal.

Hannah Grubbs

Hannah GrubbsHometown: Fort Worth, Texas
Education: High School diploma/ CCAF
Experience: Boat experience in Alaska

Jeremiah Kahn

Profile photo coming soonHometown: Virginia Beach, VA
Education: Bachelors of Arts in Music Composition from East Carolina University